Saturday, October 22, 2016

A curious pawn race: Discussion

I guess I've given y'all enough time. Let's take a look at the puzzle again:

White to move and promote his pawn first

To solve this puzzle you need to understand two main concepts of pawn endgames. The first is the pawn majority:

White has the pawn majority

In the above position White has a pawn majority. All he needs to do is push 1. c5, and will get a passed pawn regardless of whether Black captures or declines.You want to use your pawn majority to create a passed pawn and promote first.

Suppose in that same position White decides to be a patzer and pushes 1. b5??. This leads us to our next concept, the pawn freeze:

Pawn freeze: Black's single pawn stops two of White's

This is a position you don't want to get as White: He cannot push his backward c-pawn, as that would give Black a passed pawn. By using only one pawn Black can tie down both of White's. Take note!

So in our puzzle, White needs to advance his queenside pawn majority to make a passed pawn before Black does. At the same time, he has avoid creating any pawn freeze positions against his majority. Let us first look at the underlying idea, by assuming that Black is cooperative:

(NOTE: In the following diagrams, please assume both kings are non-existent; they are only there to ensure a legal position)

That was easy... all White has to do is advance his pawn majority, winning since he has the first move. But Black has methods of countering this! See the next example:

This was what we gone through just now: The deadly pawn freeze, where one enemy pawn stops two of yours. Make sure you don't get into such a situation, otherwise your pawn majority is as good as useless!

Image from

So how is White going to get that tempo back? One way would be to copy Black's counterplay in Example 2!

So we see why this puzzle is so tricky: White needs to make sure his pawn majority is able to advance properly without getting into pawn freezes. At the same time, he needs to stay ahead in tempo.

Now that we have solved the puzzle, I leave the next one as a challenge to y'all; remember the concepts you learned earlier, and apply it below.

Have fun!

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